I don't write about pop culture that often, in large part because I don't think much of today's narcissistic, mediocre-at-best entertainers. While there have been quite a few good movies in recent years, there aren't many great ones. Ditto for comedians: There are plenty who are somewhat funny or quirky, but not many who will be considered among the greatest.
Too many of today's comedians make up for lack of humor with push-the-envelope, in-your-face vulgarity. Reminds me of what my friends and I said about KISS nearly 40 years ago: They make up for their lack of musical talent with the theatrics and loud pyrotechnics.
That's why I appreciate the original "Saturday Night Live": Originating as "NBC's Saturday Night," it came out of nowhere (well, actually Chicago's Second City comedy club was a primary source) and thrust upon the public an impressive all-star cast of now household name entertainers: John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Akroyd, Garrett Morris and Jane Curtin, soon to be followed by other staples including Eddie Murphy, John Candy, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray.
Their skits and satire are the stuff of legends. I am not going to bother researching the years or chronology (some of these might have been early 1980s rather than 1970s), but here are a few memories:
What middle-aged Baby Boomer who watched the show as a teen could forget the "Weekend Update" spoof of 60 Minutes involving Akroyd and Curtin. ("Jane, you ignorant slut!"). Or how about Radner's Emily Litella ("Never mind") and Roseanne Roseannadanna. Then there was Lily Tomlin's telephone operator Ernestine ("One ringy dingy..."); Murphy's parody of Fred Rogers in "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood"; Chevy Chase lampooning President Gerald Ford; the gumby-like "Mr. Bill" character ("Oh, no!"); and the Blues Brothers (cover of Sam & Dave's "Soul Man")...
Granted, sometimes the humor was left-wing and counter-culture in nature, but that's par for the course. Comedians by their very nature tend to lean left, because they exist to push the envelope. They operate in a malleable universe without absolutes and devoid of parameters. But the SNL humor was original, clever and had some real wit and bite to it. It was not the crude, often mean-spirited F-bomb stew that passes for humor today.
As I've often said, you don't want your accountant or lawyer up on stage trying to entertain or kick out the jams; nor do you want a stand-up clown or rock star representing you in court or doing your taxes. There's a time and a place for everything, and the mid-1970s was a great era for the Not Ready for Prime Time Players.
Too bad my little town doesn't have an Olympic Cafe. Boy, would I love to stroll in there and shout: "Cheeseborger/Cheesborger/Cheeps/Pepsi!....No Coke; Pepsi!"